As an animal shelter volunteer, I know what it is like to be up against a deadline, and in this case the term carries significant meaning. For many of the animals we serve, the clock is literally the line between being alive and being dead. Weekly we receive a list of urgent animals, those who have been overlooked for adoption or rescue and who are taking up kennel space that is sorely needed. They are on the euthanasia list for potential extinction.
Ending Euthanasia Lists
We are fortunate that our shelter is progressive and is decreasing the kill rate, but it is still a painful and unjust system that convicts the innocent because there is no room for them in the tiny enclosures they want so badly to leave. Most of the dogs get so very excited when you come with a leash, hoping that it means they will get some time in the kennel run, but it could also mean Taking the Final Walk to Oblivion. For those who are adopted, being set free from the shelter is almost too much to bear. I have photographed dogs who finally get to touch the grass after weeks in the shelter, who finally have their very own family, who get a car ride home, and who will soon learn what the term home really should mean. The anxiety in the receiving room bounces off the walls in squeaks and yowls. For cats, who have much less opportunity to be moved from their square little hostels, receiving usually means being put in yet another box for the ride home. Most of the animals suffer from trauma, neglect, anxiety and depression.
Life, Death, Tick, Tock
One is never far from the fateful, perennial ticking of the clock in a shelter. Come Monday, there will be another Urgent list. Our group of shelter support folks, those who try to raise money to get animals out of the shelter and into rescue, and who publicize the individual animals needing a home, maintains photos of those animals on the Urgent List. Our shelter offers all their adoption fees, which include full vetting, for half price to encourage homes for them. By the end of the week, we usually have at least half of the animals adopted or rescued, but it is that last day or two of struggle that is so heartbreaking. Anyone with a number of Facebook friends knows the frantic Animals on Death Row photos that start circulating, the pleas of desperation for someone to save their beloved animals. We see them not only in our localities, but across the nation and the world. If an animal is too fearful, too growly, too angry, or simply too common, they may lose all they have — life itself.
Time is running out for all of us, for the planet, too. For the animals in shelters, animals in forests, animals in abattoirs, animals in labs, the clock is ticking ever more ominously and urgently.
And the clock keeps ticking.
Please join in the efforts to value each animal’s life as precious – go vegan, support your local shelter, protest all animal use.